Farm Futures Summit Session: Applying Principles for Leadership and Business Growth

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When we think of a farmer, most of us immediately think about crop production – planting, growing and harvesting crops.

But farmers wear a lot of hats – literally and figuratively. From mechanic to human resources to bookkeeper, there are many tasks beyond production to handle.

Today’s full-time farmers tend to more acres than ever before. And profit margins are often thin and never guaranteed. That’s why the business side of farming is so crucial.

Farm Futures Summit

I recently attended the 2022 Farm Futures Summit in Iowa City, and the presentation hall was filled with farmers ready to hone their business skills. Well-known experts, most connected to the ag industry in some way, spoke about leadership, grain marketing, government policy, estate planning and other topics that were not related to production.

I found the Summit informative and useful. As a business owner myself and in my role as Account Director for DKY Ag, I found the session on leadership to be especially interesting and applicable across industries.

Applying Structured Principles

Dean Heffta, founder of leadership consulting firm Clarus Results, spoke about challenges that farm businesses and businesses in general face. He offered his thoughts on our roles as business leaders and challenged us to take daily issues or even those ten years down the road, head on with a structured approach.

He talked about creating a “learning organization” to keep improving in order to compete. All businesses, including farms, face competitive pressures. To stay ahead of the competition, it’s critical to accelerate the learning process to implement solutions faster.

Heffta points out that mistakes are acceptable, as long as we learn from them. He shared five principles that can help owners and producers improve their business management skills:

After-Action Review – Following each harvest (or after each marketing campaign) gather everyone together to discuss lessons learned. Talk about what worked, what didn’t and what can be done to improve the process the next time.

20/80 Meetings – While looking back and assessing is an important practice, in the heat of the growing season too much looking back can bog down the process. Only 20 percent of team meetings should be spent discussing what’s been done, while 80% should focus on what’s ahead and how you’ll get there.

Bring in the Best – Surround yourself with people who are better than you at certain tasks to raise your game and your entire operation. For example, if grain marketing is not your strength, work with a trusted professional who can take this role off your plate and deliver superior results.

Connect Effort to Vision – When trying something new like a different type of fertilizer enhancer, you’ll learn along the way. It’s not about doing it perfectly the first time, it’s about gaining valuable insights during the trial period.

Create a Team – Wearing too many hats can create bottlenecks and less than optimal results. Focus on what you do best and bring in others to efficiently and successfully help complete tasks. Building a network of consultants, such as an equipment dealer, accountant or grain origination specialist, may also be beneficial for making enterprise-level decisions.

Walking the Talk at DKY

At DKY, we try to apply these same principles in our client work. We take time to understand project objectives, bring in the best people for each task, measure progress, learn as we execute, make adjustments and, ultimately, grow and harvest the results of successful programs.

To learn more about DKY’s Agriculture practice and marketing programs, please contact us.